Glasgow may be Scotland’s second city, but that doesn’t mean it’s second-rate by any stretch of the imagination. For the culture vultures amongst you, Glasgow is a juicy carcass bursting with world-class cultural venues, including concert halls, theatres and more museums than you could possibly visit in a weekend. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be spoilt for choice when mealtimes roll round, whatever your dietary requirements may be. We only had a day to discover the delights of Glasgow, and here’s what we got up to . . .
We’d caught the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston, which pulled into Glasgow Central just after 07:00. After a night spent curled up in a sleeper seat (comfortable if you’re on the short side, perhaps not so much if you’re long-legged), we were looking forward to stretching our legs. We’d planned to take it easy, as we’d be setting off on the West Highland Way the next day, but those plans quickly went out of the window when we realised how much there was to see (and we by no means saw it all).
After stowing our rucksacks at our hotel and freshening up a little, we set off on the City Centre Mural Trail. Scattered across the city, these murals have been breathing new life into the city’s walls, underpasses and buildings for the best part of the last decade.
We saw Shadow Hand Puppets, a fun mural depicting shadowgraphy in action, Wonderwall, a homage to the University of Strathclyde’s people and their achievements, and Saint Mungo (above), a mural which was created untitled and only acquired its name when it went viral on social media.
We made a few detours from the trail along the way, Glasgow Cathedral being one such detour. We timed our arrival perfectly, arriving just as it was opening up for the day. Glasgow Cathedral is said to have been built on the burial site of St. Kentigern (also known as St. Mungo), the patron saint of Glasgow; for this reason, it’s also known as St. Mungo’s Cathedral.
Considered to be one of the finest examples of Scottish Gothic architecture, it seamlessly blends centuries-old masonry and traditional leaded windows with beautiful post-war stained glass. Venturing into the crypt, we found the tomb of St. Kentigern, amongst other relics of years gone by.
Glasgow Cathedral’s neighbour is the city’s Necropolis, a sprawling hilltop cemetery which was modelled on Père-Lachaise. Glasgow’s ever-expanding population was steadily putting pressure on the city’s cemeteries, as squalid living conditions led to frequent outbreaks of typhus and cholera.
Planning began in 1831, and the cemetery officially opened just two years later; today, it’s the final resting place of some fifty thousand souls. Various paths wind their way up the hill, with tombs and memorials of all shapes and sizes arranged in a higgledy piggledy fashion across the hillside.
We then resumed the City Centre Mural Trail, picking up where we left off with Fellow Glasgow Residents, a vast mural of all the animals which call the city’s green spaces their home, and Badminton, one of a series of murals used to promote the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Meandering through the city, we passed crowds gathering to watch the Orange Walk (an annual commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne), more murals, including a well-known one entitled The World’s Most Economical Taxi (featuring a taxi à la Carl Fredrickson’s house in Up), and the recently-restored St. Andrew’s Cathedral, which stands on the bank of the River Clyde.
Having had our fill of the city centre, we ventured out to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, via Kelvingrove Park. We were feeling rather peckish by this point, so we stopped for a toasted ciabatta at The Little Café (1361 Argyle Street) first.
Over at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, we caught the tail end of an organ recital before exploring the many exhibitions. Scotland’s most popular free-to-enter visitor attraction is a verifiable treasure trove of themed galleries, antique armour and curiosities from the realms of the natural world. Sophie Cave’s Floating Heads installation was a personal highlight.
Our next stop was the award-winning Tantrum Doughnuts (27 Old Dumbarton Road) for a sweet treat (or two). I opted for the Chocolate Millionaire, while Laurence went for Milk n’ Cookies; both were divine. Thanks for the recommendation, Lauren!
With England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden looming, our attention turned to finding a pub showing the match (two hours well spent, even if England did crash out in the next round). After the match, we picked up last-minute supplies for the West Highland Way, and had a restorative cuppa before heading out for tea. Paesano Pizza proved to be a sound choice. They serve up authentic Neapolitan pizzas, baked in a wood-fired oven, at wallet-friendly prices; you’ll easily get change out of a £20 for two people, if you’re not having booze.
- If you fancy learning more about Glasgow Necropolis, join one of the walking tours run by The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis. Check their website for times and dates of upcoming tours, and book in advance to guarantee a spot.
- Paesano Pizza doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared for a short wait if you’re there on a weekend.